Are you honoring the paradox of dependence and independence?
We honor ourselves when we ask for the support we need. And yet there are times when life compels us to rely on ourselves because flying solo is exactly what we need.
The following story from the Hasidic tradition of Judaism highlights why self-reliance is indispensable. A young rabbi complained to his mentor that he felt full of life when he studied, but when he turned away from that source of support and went about his daily activities, this mood disappeared. “What should I do?” he asked. His astute teacher replied with an apt analogy: “You must be like the man who is walking through the forest in the dark accompanied by a friend. A time will come when the two companions must part and each must go his own way alone. Neither will fear the darkness if he carries his own lantern.”
When it comes down to it, you have to be able to depend on yourself to light your way. You must be the guiding star in your life and make the decisions that allow you to live and give your fullest. In an odd sort of way, though, we may avoid doing just that because we’re afraid to step out onto center stage.
Do you avoid self-reliance—and at what cost?
At subconscious levels, we may develop a habit of continually sacrificing for or depending on others as a way to avoid the sometimes scary process of stepping out of our comfortable cocoon and developing our real gifts. Developing a habit of over-sacrificing for others can even be a way to avoid the confrontations that we think may come when we begin to assert our right to be at the top of our priority list. All that, however, comes with a cost. Sacrifice can be a mask that we put on and then become so used to that we forget that the face we are showing to the world, and to ourselves, is not our real face.
Don’t get me wrong—sacrifice is a beautiful virtue when it comes from the heart. But to use sacrifice as a way to avoid facing our fears or shaping our own futures, is a cop-out. It’s handing over our choices to someone else. It’s like accepting a supporting role in someone else’s drama when you should be playing the leading role in your own life story.
Every part of life, as it grows and evolves, naturally moves between seeking support and flying solo, between giving and receiving. Only when those elements are in balance can we make real and lasting progress. Navigating the paradox of dependence and independence in relationships requires a keen sense of balance. There can be a blurred line between receiving help and allowing a partner or mentor to control your life—or between giving help and stifling a loved one’s opportunity to grow and blossom. Here are some questions and tips to help you reflect on whether you’re the guiding star in your own life right now.
For your reflection: Are you your own guiding star?
>> Are you in a relationship with someone who is making decisions that you should be making or who is trying to manage your life?
>> What would you like to tell that person about how you are feeling? What would you like to request of him or her? Try crafting what you want to say on paper before explaining it in person. You may even need to send your message in writing to fully express what you find it hard to say in person.
>> Follow up to make sure your partner understands what you are asking and that you both have the same expectations going forward.
Remember: Giving yourself room to be your own person isn’t about pushing the other person in your relationship out, but about counting yourself in.
For more about navigating the paradox of seeking support and flying solo, see my book Honor Yourself : The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, chapter 4.
(For Part 1 of this article, click here.)